Portugal’s Housing and Infrastructure minister resigns over TAP fiasco
Portugal’s Minister for Infrastructure and Housing has resigned after it was revealed that a junior minister had received a half-a-million-euro ‘golden handshake’ on her departure from public-owned airline TAP after being barely three years into the job as a director.
In a statement, the minister Pedro Nunes Santos said: “given the public perception and collective feeling over the TAP case I have decided to take political responsibility and hand in my resignation which has been accepted” by the Prime Minister, António Costa.
The resignation is a heavy blow for the ruling PS government which had won a virtual landslide victory on the 20 January 2022.
It comes after Prime Minister António Costa’s Finance Minister, Fernando Medina had requested the resignation of ex-TAP director Alexandra Reis from her current plum position as Secretary of State for the Treasury on Tuesday, just one month after having taken up the post, and four days after the €500,000 “compensation” scandal erupted in the Portuguese media.
Alexandra Reis had been a director at TAP whose administration led by Christine Ourmières-Widener has been swamped with a string of controversies over the past two years.
Portugal’s Secretary of State for Infrastructure, Hugo Santos Mendes also resigned from the Government realising his position was also untenable. With the three resignations, the Portuguese Government is now in crisis with opposition party leaders calling for the President of the Republic to dissolve parliament on a no confidence motion and call for a general election — a move which Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has ruled out.
The main opposition party PSD has asked the Prime Minister António Costa to face a grilling in the Portuguese parliament on Tuesday, while the Liberal Initiative and far-right CHEGA party has called for the President of the Republic to “evaluate” the position and future of the current government.
The Vice-President of the PSD party, Paulo Rangel described the events of the past week as a “veritable epidemic of political crises” for a government showing a “blatant lack of direction and coordination” adding that: “erratic decisions and appointments” were a “sign of political degradation”. “The Prime Minister’s authority and credibility have been severely shaken” and he (António Costa) has “lost moral and political authority”, he said.
The centre-right conservative CDS party’s Nuno Melo, who is a Euro MP, has also called on the President to dissolve parliament and call snap elections.
In a communiqué sent to news desks this week, Nuno Melo stated: “Governments have fallen for a lot less than has been allowed to happen in recent months. The Government is no longer serving the public interest, the Socialist period in power is over, the country is once again in a swamp, which compromises the normal function of basic institutions”.
And went on to add: “Portugal needs another solution that brings confidence to the Portuguese people and reverses the current moment of disbelief and instability”.